From his designer sunglasses to his fancy driving shoes, everything about John Morris exudes country club class.
The Internet millionaire from Southern California found golf boring, so he bought his own country club in Pahrump, one that pumps more adrenaline through his veins than chasing a little white ball through the grass.
Jumping on the accelerator of a 220-horsepower Radical SR3 Turbo race car and maneuvering through a 3.5-mile road course is more his speed.
That’s why Morris and his brother-in-law, Brad Rambo, paid $6.5 million for 193 acres off State Route 160 four years ago and founded Spring Mountain Motorsports Country Club, which held its grand opening May 3-4.
The only private club of its kind in the Southwest United States, Club Spring Mountain has expanded from the Corvette Driving School to include Lotus and Radicals, high-performance racing karts, a flying club and private memberships starting from $7,500, plus monthly fees.
A $3 million, 8,000-square-foot clubhouse was completed in April with locker rooms for women and men, a pool and spa, a fitness center, an executive conference room, a full kitchen and a lounge with nine plasma televisions that broadcast action on the track via closed circuit. Members can also watch from an elevated viewing tower.
“Life has changed dramatically from two pup tents and some porta-potties,” said Dave Petrie, general manager of the club who’s worked there for 10 years, when it was only the Corvette school. “You can come here and relax. The driving school makes you focus. It allows for a true getaway. You go to the beach, you still think about things. This is a true getaway for a vacation and to let business go.”
Building the new 7,900-square-foot Corvette school allowed Morris to dedicate more resources to the growing operation and expand the Radical Racing School and Lotus Performance Driving School.
He’s been able to increase gross revenue from about $1 million in 2004 to $7.5 million in 2007. With track rental fees and the expanded driving schools, he expects to do about $12 million to $13 million in business this year.
The club has grown to 147 members, most of them from Las Vegas and Southern California, but some from as far away as Wisconsin. They store their Porsches, Ferraris and Lamborghinis in 56 rentable garages that were built last year. Eighty-six more are on the way.
“The demand is there,” Morris said. “The track is doing well, there’s demand for the garages and we got our money back in four or five years. We found it’s better to put our money in garages than CDs (certificates of deposit) or stocks.”
Corporate events are going to be the next big thing at the club, Morris said. His former company, Advanced Access, held a retreat for the sales staff, including meetings in the conference room. Both the Ferrari and Lamborghini dealerships in Las Vegas brought clients out for “track day.”
Weekend driving school programs cost about $1,000 a day and drivers log 300 miles on the track, Petrie said. Class sizes range from eight to 16 drivers a day, and they typically come from a half-dozen states and Canada, he said.
Along with the new garages, Club Spring Mountain will be adding seven buildings starting this month, including a maintenance shop, helicopter hangar, starter-timer building, gatehouse and indoor shooting range. Plans also call for a Microtel franchise hotel with 83 rooms and 17 suites, exotic car dealership and member condominiums.
Club Spring Mountain membership rates start at $7,500 for classic, $35,000 for charter and $100,000 for corporate, plus monthly dues.
Those prices compare favorably with other motorsports country clubs, such as Monticello Motor Club in New York, where initiation fees are $100,000, going up to $120,000 when the track opens later this year, plus $8,000 annual dues. Club Lime Rock in Connecticut costs $110,000 to join and $6,000 in annual dues.
A similar motorsports club was proposed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway soon after it was built in 1996, but the idea never materialized. The speedway has several driving schools, including the Richard Petty Driving Experience, Mario Andretti Racing School and American Racing Academy.
Contact reporter Hubble Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0491.